I wanted a bike, mostly because my three cousins who lived two blocks away all had bicycles. My mother wasn't fond of the idea and since I was still small statured at the time, she thought a bike might be too much for me to handle. I did have a trike - a huge one, not the standard one for tots but it wasn't the same.
One day when I was maybe six years old, if that, I visited my first yard sale with my mom, brother, aunt and cousins. Tucked beneath a table at this yard sale was a bike, a small "sidewalk" bike with a price tag of fifty cents. My cousin Tom Sontheimer bought it for me, a bargain although it needed a chain which my mother purchased under protest for $2.
My bike lessons began with training wheels and as long as they were in place, I could peddle just fine. I rode up and down the sidewalk outside their home on North Ninth Street but it wasn't much different than riding the big tricycle. So, the training wheels came off and I began trying to learn to ride in earnest.
With tireless patience, my cousins pushed me as I peddled and then they would let go. The idea was that I would keep riding, unaware they were no longer supporting me but each time I crashed. It was humbling. It was embarrassing. I became mad, sad, and frustrated but also determined.
I'll never forget the moment when I peddled that bike furiously toward the corner and then realized I was riding it without help. There were still times when I lost balance and fell but I had the basics so my years of bike riding were underway.
Eventually I outgrew the small bike and a few years later, I received a 26 inch bike for Christmas, a promise made by my Pop and kept after his passing by Granny. It was bigger and when I first tried to ride it, my toes were stretched to reach the pedals. That summer, we moved to southwest Missouri and when the bike at long last joined me, delivered by my grandmother, I jumped on and rode away. I'd grown an inch or two and my desire to keep up with the other kids on bikes gave me the power to ride like the wind.
I realized the other day, as my second year walking a widow's path began, that obstacles in life - such as being widowed - are a lot like riding without training wheels. It's new and it's scary. I'm afraid for someone to let go and let me ride alone although I want to, more than anything. I've reached the point where the widow training wheels are off but I'm still a bit wobbly but I am determined.
I will adjust to this stage of life and I will ride. There probably will always be a few falls, a bump or scrape or two along the way but I've got this - without training wheels.
-Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy is the community editor for The Neosho Daily News and The Aurora Advertiser. She is also a novelist, teaches 7 and 8th grade students at church, and remains determined.